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Apple’s ‘appointment only’ Watch strategy is elitist, annoying, and brilliant

How to Buy an Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is going to be sold in Apple Stores by appointment only. It’ll introduce a reservation system for people who want to drop into a store to try on the device before buying one. This means if you’re passing an Apple Store and fancy picking up an Apple Watch, there’s a chance you’ll be turned away and told to come back at a more convenient time.

At first glance, it’s the most objectionable, elitist, and almost willfully anti-sales nonsense one expects from Apple — the undisputed master of separating the haves from the have-nots. While it’s all these things, it’s also a tactic brimming with flair and bravado, that could save the Apple Watch from obscurity, and play an essential part in persuading us a smartwatch is worth buying.

How? The world still isn’t convinced by wearables. Samsung, LG, Motorola, and many other companies have released entire ranges of smart this, that, and the other thing. They throw them out the door and stack ‘em up on store shelves, without really telling us why we need one at all. Instead, the hope is that we’ll all want the new shiny thing, no questions asked. It’s a risk that’s not really paying off.

Apple isn’t doing that. It’s treating us like individuals, because it understands wearables are very, very individual things.

Stop thinking about the Watch as a piece of tech

Of course, reservations are also a convenient way for Apple not to disappoint legions of prospective buyers. The Apple Watch range is broad, and keeping each and every model in stock, all the time, will be rather difficult. This way, you’ll have made sure the version you’re most interested in is in stock before making the effort to visit the store. For all of us who just can’t wait, we can simply order online like we would with any other Apple product.

Buying the Apple Watch will be more like buying a sharp suit.

Buying the Apple Watch will be more like buying a sharp suit, or a pair of earrings. It’ll be down to size and fit, not megapixels and processor cores. Apple’s gone all out on the personal aspect of the Watch, from the varied styles to the ability to send your virtual heartbeat to other people, so why not go the extra mile and make the buying experience more personal?

While it’s possible to deliberate over a Samsung Gear S for hours outside of a store, the buying process inside takes as long as the queue at the checkout, and is no different from buying a pint of milk. This is where Apple’s going to win over the wearable skeptics. Watches are often very special, and are an infinitely more personal purchase than a phone or a laptop. Doubters need to be won over, shown the value in owning and wearing a watch that’s connected to their phone.

apple watch

David Sims/Apple

Nobody is rushing out to buy wearables yet. Most of us need convincing about this exciting new tech, and to do that, the sales process must be refined, so Apple can show the average iPhone owner why they should splash out on an Apple Watch. We’re all flattered by a bit of attention, especially when it’s something that makes us feel unique, and Apple’s going to get us in stores, sitting down with a trained sales person, and exploit this opportunity to take the Apple Watch mainstream. It’s a brilliant plan.

Apple will succeed where others fail

Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this? In truth, they probably have, but it’s only a company like Apple that has the cache, guts, retail network, and ongoing conviction to pull it off. Think about it. If LG said no-one could buy the Watch Urbane without sitting through 15 minutes of sales patter beforehand, it’d sell about five of them. We’d all have a good chuckle and question why LG had suddenly developed delusions of grandeur, regardless of if we liked the Watch Urbane or not.

That’s hardly the best way to convince the public to adopt something new.

Google’s perhaps the only one that has had a go at selling a product without an obvious customer base before. Google Glass was only available to those with an invitation for ages, before it set up weird, appointment-only retail stores where preening took precedence over sales. However, Google’s fickle, and when it lost interest in Glass, it closed the stores, and relegated the device to the back of the cupboard. That’s hardly the best way to convince the public to adopt something new.

However, Apple’s in this for the long-term. It knows for the Apple Watch to be a true success, it needs to get it on the wrists of the millions of normal, everyday iPhone owners, who don’t even know they want one yet. Meanwhile, those of us who are counting the hours until release will grab one online, without even leaving the house.

Yes, the reservation process is going to annoy people, it’s going to fuel talk about limited supply, and will most likely kill off the now traditional, snaking queues outside stores on launch day. Apple is turning its back on the one thing that’s still good about retail shopping — walking in, handing over some money, and walking out with your prize — but romancing millions of possible Apple Watch wearers with personalized appointments could mean the difference between us wearing one for five minutes, or for five years.

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